The Betrayal of Thomas True – A J West | Book Review | #TheBetrayalOfThomasTrue | #HistoricalThriller @OrendaBooks @AJWestAuthor @RandomTTours

It is the year 1715, and Thomas True has arrived on old London Bridge with a dangerous secret. One night, lost amongst the squalor of London’s hidden back streets, he finds himself drawn into the outrageous underworld of the molly houses.

Meanwhile, carpenter Gabriel Griffin struggles to hide his double life as Lotty, the mollie’s silent guard. When the queen of all ‘he-harlots’, Mother Clap, confides in him about a deadly threat, he realises his friends are facing imminent execution. To the horror of all mollies, there is a rat amongst them, betraying their secrets to a pair of murderous Justices, hell-bent on punishing sinners with the noose.

Can Gabriel unmask the traitor before it’s too late? Can he save hapless Thomas from peril, and their own impossible love?


My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the pdf to review. The Betrayal of Thomas True is published by Orenda Books and available in ebook, audio and hardback (4 July 2024) with the paperback to follow in September 2024.

18th century London is bought to life with its foul smells, poverty and a term that I wasn’t familiar with before now, mollies and molly houses. Life in London was a dangerous place for gay men – they are hunted down and if caught are shown no mercy. Their ‘crime’ was often punishable by hanging however mollies had a sanctuary in molly houses around the City; whereby they could express themselves by choosing another identity – often female, wear whatever they wish whether it be dresses or wigs, behave how they want and not be judged. Their mantra of ‘Together…. Always Together’ was a thread that bound them.

Young Thomas True is desperate to fit in and find his place in the world. He has no friends and has known nothing but brutality from his religious family and torment from his peers. Fleeing his home and upon his arrival in London and the introduction to likeminded men he feels wonder and hope that this is somewhere he can belong. Thomas was an endearing character; he could be a little foolish and at times naive but his heart was good. However Thomas and other mollies are in danger. A traitor – known as ‘the Rat’ is suspected of giving away their identities to the justices and Thomas together with molly guard Gabriel Griffin try to find the Rat and end the betrayals. A huge hulk of a man, Gabriel was a lonely and complex character, conflicted in his feelings – particularly with his increasing attraction to Thomas. By day he was a carpenter/builder and still grieving for his family whilst at night he assumed the identity of Lotty guarding the molly house belonging to Mother Clap with the intention of keeping the mollies safe from outside forces.

The Betrayal of Thomas True was an amazing story and one which opened my eyes and tugged at the heart. It is a decadent romp through a part of history that I knew little about and the vivid descriptions bought the story and the characters to life. Love, hope, corruption and betrayal – it is all there together with a touch of the fantastical. The book inspired a myriad of emotions, and the grisly brutality inflicted by men of God and the law turned my stomach at times.

This was a gripping and atmospheric historical thriller with (some) characters that I took to my heart. It is clear that much research was involved (more details can be found on the author’s website). With its twists and turns and intricate plotting I was constantly wondering what would happen next although I was so hoping that good would triumph over evil and that those responsible for such misery would get what they deserved. Highly recommended.

A.J. West’s bestselling debut novel The Spirit Engineer won the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award, gaining international praise for its telling of a long- forgotten true story. An award winning BBC newsreader and reporter, he has written for national newspapers and regularly appears on network television discussing his writing and the historical context of contemporary events. A passionate historical researcher, he writes at The London Library and museum archives around the world.

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